Music and Chemotherapy

Notes against body and soul pain

Teachers at a school in Jaén use music therapy to mitigate patient suffering during chemotherapy sessions
From the left, Lorena Cuenca, Carmen Martínez, Cristina García and Natalia Garrido with Pedro Sánchez Rovira, head of oncology at the hospital in Jaén. / JOSÉ MANUEL PEDROSA
Sounds the Imagine theme of John Lennon at the Day Hospital of Oncology in Jaén. About twenty patients listen to the guitar, piano and percussion chords by Natalia Garrido, Carmen Martínez or Cristina García and thus briefly relieve their ailments. The chemotherapy session is undoubtedly much more comforting. A dozen teachers at the Maestro Cebrián Music School in the capital of Jaén are leading a pioneering experience in the oncology units of Spanish hospitals: environmental music therapy for cancer patients. During one day a week, these music professionals rotate and walk playing with their instruments through the hospital, first through the rooms of the oncology plant with individualized sessions where the music therapists look for the active participation of the patients and, later , By the day hospital, where they make the harder sessions of chemotherapy more bearable.

“That something as beautiful and magical as music can bring beneficial things to a person who is suffering is something that has no words; For me it’s a dream that I get up with every day. ” Natalia Garrido does not hide a certain passion when she speaks of a project set by herself and that today is a reality. This music therapist trained at the Autonomous University of Madrid did not hesitate to present this initiative to the hospital in Jaén when she came from the United States, where she worked in this field. “We use music as a means to achieve therapeutic goals with patients, Managing pain and increasing their quality of life, “says Garrido. And everything, adds this music therapist, through a discipline that is presented as “a complementary therapy in the hospital and that is combined with traditional medical treatment.” All who participated in this program had to take a training course to better understand the environment and the needs of patients.
Bolero and Cancer
There are many experiences that music therapist Natalia Garrido has shared in oncology. She recalls the case of a patient with a severe prognosis whose children spent all their energies in their care without investing time in rescuing what bound them to her. “I asked them if they remembered any songs they had identified with their mother. The older son remembered a bolero, began to sing it and his mother got out of bed and told them to dance. It was a necessary moment between them, and for a while, the cancer was not the protagonist, which, unfortunately, is normally, “he reflects.
Pedro Sánchez Rovira, head of the Oncology Unit of the hospital complex of Jaén, immediately welcomed the project. “Music therapy helps mitigate the burden of emotional stress these patients endure. Of course it helps, because it allows the patient to feel more comfortable, improve their quality of life and makes the chemotherapy sessions more relaxed, “explains the doctor. Proof of the acceptance of this program, adds Sánchez Rovira, is that many patients ask to match their therapeutic sessions with the presence of the musicians.
And so, week after week, these Jiennese interpreters and music therapists try to contribute their bit in the fight against cancer. They do it with themes of classical music, Spanish pop, international rock and film soundtracks that, on many occasions, demand the same patients. “We try to make them soft and relaxed to be a pleasant and beneficial experience for patients, and the truth is that in return we receive a lot of affection and gratitude,” says Cristina García de la Torre, who is the director of the Maestro Cebrián School , A center of long musical tradition in the capital of Jiennense from where the teachers involved in this initiative come out. This is the case, for example, the pianist Carmen Martinez, who defines her experience: “The best reward is to see the face of patient satisfaction.”
The music therapist Natalia Garrido argues that with this way of making use of the notes “patients can escape from the disease and can work the bond between relatives and patients that is sometimes very worn due to the process so hard that is the treatment of cancer “. This is why the work done in the rooms, where patients can play instruments or sing songs meaningful to them, is emphasized, all with specific techniques of relaxation with music that are very effective in situations of trauma. The music therapy program at the hospital in Jaén is possible this year thanks to funding from the provincial board of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), which also featured these musicians in recent days on patient self care and oncological aesthetics.
In addition, in collaboration with another music therapist, Lorena Cuenca – who is also in charge of programming repertoires – is taking advantage of this initiative to conduct a research to compare if the participation in sessions of environmental music therapy, during the administration of chemotherapy treatment, brings significant differences In the mood, side effects and quality of life in cancer patients, compared to a control group that does not receive such sessions.
“Live music not only transforms the acoustic environment in which the patient and the health team are located, but their therapeutic qualities and their intentional use influence the experience that the patient is having at the time of receiving treatment with chemotherapy “Says Sergio Garrido, a psycho-oncologist at the AECC.
The promoters of this program of environmental music therapy are now thinking of extending the initiative to the unit of neonatology and to the intensive care of premature babies. Until the arrival of these musicians, the only similar experiences in the hospital complex of Jaén were the visits of musicians from France to their Unit of Pain and Palliative Care of the center Doctor Sagaz and the children of the materno-infantile, where they interpreted small compositions with instruments Musicals made with natural elements such as wood, coconuts or conch shells.


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